JAKARTA: International human rights groups, nongovernmental organizations (NGOs) and activists are urging the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) to investigate Myanmar’s junta leader for crimes against humanity, and are even making calls to consider the nation’s expulsion from the bloc, as member states prepare to attend a regional summit on the crisis in his country this week
Amnesty International urged Southeast Asian nations Friday to launch an inquiry into the Myanmar coup leader’s crimes against humanity amid reports that he will attend a regional summit. The ASEAN summit is to be held Saturday in Jakarta, Indonesia.
Senior General Min Aung Hlaing, Myanmar’s junta chief who ousted the civilian government on Feb. 1, is likely to attend, diplomats and officials in the host nation have said. Authorities in Myanmar have not commented on the reports.
“As a state party to the United Nations Convention against Torture, Indonesia has a legal obligation to prosecute or extradite a suspected perpetrator on its territory,” Amnesty said in a statement.
Thailand’s Prime Minister Prayuth Chan-ocha and Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte have announced that they will send their foreign ministers. Other ASEAN members include Myanmar itself, Brunei, Cambodia, host country Indonesia, Laos, Malaysia, Singapore and Vietnam.
Indonesian President Joko Widodo and Prayuth discussed the summit in a phone call Thursday morning. During the conversation, Prayuth acknowledged that the situation in Myanmar is a challenging issue for peace and stability in the region, according to a press statement.
The meeting is the first concerted international effort to ease the crisis in Myanmar, where security forces have killed hundreds of pro-democracy protesters since the February coup. It is also a test for ASEAN, which traditionally does not interfere in the internal affairs of a member state and operates by consensus.
“The Myanmar crisis triggered by the military presents ASEAN with the biggest test in its history,” Emerlynne Gil, Amnesty’s deputy regional director for research, said in the statement. “The bloc’s usual commitment to non-interference is a non-starter: This is not an internal matter for Myanmar but a major human rights and humanitarian crisis which is impacting the entire region and beyond.”
A grouping of 45 Southeast Asian NGOs said the invitation to Hlaing to attend the summit “provides legitimacy … to the genocidal slaughter being committed by the military regime against its own citizens and people.” It urged ASEAN leaders to include Myanmar lawmakers ousted by the military to attend the Jakarta meeting.
“ASEAN leaders will not be able to achieve anything at this summit to solve the current crisis without consulting and negotiating with the rightful representatives of the peoples of Myanmar,” the NGOs said in a letter published on social media.
Myanmar’s military has shown no sign of wanting to talk to members of the government it ousted, accusing some of them of treason, which is punishable by death.
Last week, Myanmar’s pro-democracy politicians, including ousted members of parliament, announced the formation of a National Unity Government that nominally includes deposed leader Aung San Suu Kyi, who has been in detention since the coup, as well as leaders of the protests and ethnic minorities.